The world’s first steam railway engine – 210 years on

210 years to the day after the world’s first steam locomotive ran on an iron tram road a new drama how retold the story of Richard Trevithick, the Penydarren Locomotive and how the railways began.

‘Iron and Steam’ – a short play about how Trevithick developed his high pressure steam engine to run on the iron rails of the Merthyr Tramroad – was given its premiere in Merthyr Tydfil.

Students from The College Merthyr Tydfil acted the drama for audiences at Theatr Soar and for children at Edwardsville Primary School and Cyfarthfa Junior School.

Audiences – young and old alike – were thrilled as the students took on the roles of:

  • ·     iron workers at Cyfarthfa, Dowlais, Penydarren and Pentrebach,
  • ·     the powerful iron masters – Crawshay, Guest, Homfray and Hill
  • ·     Richard Trevithick and
  •     Davies Giddy, an eminent politician and scientist of the time.

Trevithick Day started in Abercynon where a new sign to mark the start of the Trevithick Trail was unveiled – close to the former Glamorganshire Canal headquarters at Navigation House (now the Celtic Carvery at Navigation Inn).

Children at Edwardsville Primary School enjoyed the premiere of Steam – and then the school’s gardening club planted five fruit trees to celebrate the start of a Keep Wales Tidy environmental project along the nine and a half miles of the Trevithick Trail/old Merthyr Tramroad.

Choral group ‘Merthyr Aloud’ opened the main celebration event at Theatr Soar in Pontmorlais – a venue just a stone’s throw from the tramroad along which Trevithick drove the Penydarren Locomotive on 21st February 1804.

After another loudly applauded performance of ‘Steam’ from the students of The College Merthyr Tydfil (based in REDHOUSE The Old Town Hall), there was a session of ‘Any Trevithick Questions’.

A panel of Phil Hosken, Chairman of the Trevithick Society, Joe England and Huw Williams tried to answer questions like:

What happened to the 1,000 guineas in cash said to have been staked by Crawshay and Homfray in a bet on Trevithick’s adventure?

What was the exact design of the Penydarren Locomotive? Do the records show this?

Did Trevithick run one of his earlier steam engine on rails at Coalbrookdale?

Why is Trevithick now regarded as the pioneer of high pressure steam engines?

Why did Trevithick abandon his trials – leaving the way open for the Stephensons to develop commercial railway locomotives?

Finally, the drama students from The College gave their third performance of the day to children and staff at Cyfarthfa Junior School at Merthyr Tydfil’s Cyfarthfa Park.

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